Editor’s Note: Oluseun Onigbinde, 2012 Future Award Winner on Innovation (Science and Tech) leads BudgIT, a budget and public data visualisation startup.
TMS Ruge in an interview with Aljazeera gave an inspiring insight to the state of technology development in Africa. In that analytical explanation he highlighted four exciting things emanating from the African space namely Open Government, Mobile Money, Local Hardware Assembly and Tech Hubs. Unlike his eminence in technology, I shall limit my commentary to my noses – Nigeria. I think these few trends are critical to watch out for in 2013 namely:
Quality Delivery: The Nigerian telcos bemoan decreasing revenue from voice calls especially as tariffs are tanking low on stiff competition. With rise of smartphones chiefly Blackberry, data is now the new marked turf. Etisalat and Glo seem to be leading the lowest data charges and also offering loads of incentives to ensure customers remain sticky. However, no one will like to watch the Google page load in five minutes, in 2013 empirical service quality will be a viral hymn.
I see a core focus on subscribers pitching their tent on basis of quality and the price war on data space flattening out. A chaotic push of improving last mile solutions and optimizing network performance is to be seen. MTN keeps telling that it’s undergoing a modernization project and I hope the sign of things to come will be different. Beyond running the ‘fastest millionaire at 24’, 2013 is the year to validate it on the streets. Number Portability has also been an overflogged issue with the suspicion that a cabal is holding the Nigeria mobile subscriber by the jugular. In 2013, excuses on allowing the customer switch network operators at ease will be spent.
Technology Hubs: The Ministry of ICT is not hiding the plan to establish three technology hubs in the country. With the unusual pace and support of tech ecosystem, one or two might gather steam in 2013. Few private ones will dot the Nigerian tech map in addition to a recent iBridge Hub, Ibadan.
With Leviathan hurling the shots at developers with its TechLaunchPad initiative, are we on that ride of government getting smarter? Is the tech hub not beyond a well colored venue with excited youths fingering their laptops? How will these spaces foster mentorship and collaborative efforts, allow triumph of relevant local applications, put up targeted programmes to raise skill sets, allow lean startup approach to triumph ? Are we on a YouWin overdrive where we toss N10m at entrepreneurs and count it all glory? Will government and private entrepreneurs open ultramodern cybercafés or will they understand how to nest innovations by harnessing the social capital? In 2013, I think we will be scoring of the relevance of hubs to growth of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. I am proud to be a beneficiary of the premier space.
Data: On Twitter (a buzzing city that never sleeps), Facebook, beer parlors, newspaper stands or anywhere where you find two or three Nigerians, there will be endless talk on state of the Nigerian government. The problem of reliable statistics will also emerge. In 2012, the fuel subsidy protests threw up figures form several data points with the citizen confused on who to believe. To have more critical discussion, public data will glow like coal embers.
Expect people to snoop around finding the hard facts to nail government at all levels. Harnessing this data and converting it to the Knowledge graph will be fun to watch. Scores of data might be demanded in 2013 and expect rise in civic apps (education, traffic, finance, health) woven around the mobile. Even for the corporate establishments, it might be the time to open up to the emerging data scientist. 2013 is the time to watch for the Nigerian data scientist who takes the scattered jigsaw of data, finds an uncommon thread and crafts the right song for engagement and business growth.
Mobile Money: Is mobile money really here to stay? Are we just in the copy settings whilst we neglect the necessity of rural cash transfers that triggered the mobile money drive in the Kenya? Figures and data are good to hear but sadly, these magnificent statistics are not yet getting to me. I still see the aspirational attitude in the Nigerian putting his savings in a brick and mortar bank and safely transferring through that means. I personally feel banks and other vendors seem to have slowed the marketing binge on mobile money.
Maybe everyone watches which giant finds the magic bullet to go truly viral? Since the Telco’s will skirt on the sidelines on these according to the CBN rules, we might show some restraint on how this goes. I am of opinion that the mobile money needs to be well tested in a closed environment like a University, nested into every commerce within that region before its mainstreamed into the society. Money and sentiments of safety will always abound in that excluded sector mobile money is expected to empower. Why not test gradually in 2013? I can count a few vendors going into oblivion already. In this space, creative destruction will be validated and the real actors will just stand up.
The e-commerce platforms now feel like a jungle and the Jumia and Konga are leading the kingdom. The pace at which they are outpricing local vendors needs to be watched carefully. I imagine the rise of another startup to match the marketing verve of this duo to arrive with another unique selling point. Maybe, Traclist fills into the space. The SLOTS of this world need to be worried and late in 2013, they might realize the need to push hard online product offerings with payment options. The gaming space also offers exciting options.
The SharpSule application synced with Wema Bank brand is a trend to be watched within the corporate sector seeking youth engagement. Finally, we might see the year of the co-founder. Many more will emerge from competitions and hackathons. Truly, folks will ask if ‘the co-founder’ title is the new swag or the lamp post of technology development.